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European ministers keep mum on seal ban Add to ...

Seal was everywhere during this two day gathering of G7 finance ministers, but the four members from the European Union - which is imposing an import ban on seal products - didn't want to talk about it.

Saturday's closing news conference was the only opportunity for Canadian reporters to ask the Europeans what they thought of Inuit efforts to change their minds on the seal question.

However, when Kent Driscoll, the Iqaluit-based reporter with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, asked them for their thoughts, the European ministers stayed mum. That left Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to fill the silence.

Here's the transcript of the exchange:

Kent Driscoll: "This one is particular for our European Union visitors. I'm wondering, considering the European Union has banned the import of seal parts, what is your experience here seeing how Inuit relate to and use the seal? I'm wondering if you're going to be taking any information or any changed ideas home to your home countries?"

(five seconds of silence.)

Kent Driscoll: "Don't all go at once."

(five more seconds)

Jim Flaherty: "Listen, you know, the European Union makes a specific exeption with respect to the Inuit people who for thousands of years have relied on the seal as part of their survival and that is the view of the European Union and its certainly our view in Canada. As you know, we're very proud of Nunavut. Nunavut has been its own jurisdiction for about 10 years now and before that, many, many years of negotiations, which were fruitful. So this is a collaboration in Canada of which we are proud."

Kent Driscoll: "For a follow up, that window that you're talking about, the traditional import window, is a very small window. It really only relates to seals that are being imported for traditional uses. I'm wondering, again, from the European Union ministers, have you seen anything that would lead you to want to open that window a little bit more?"

Jim Flaherty: "I think I've been fairly clear with respect to the exception and you're familiar with that exception. The rest of it is largely a matter of domestic policy in Canada and you know our government's view on that."

Later, in response to a question from CBC North reporter Patricia Bell, Germany's finance minister ,Wolfgang Schauble, did say the visit changed his view of "this part of the world," but did not elaborate.

"If I may say as a European finance minister, I am the youngest one by time of being finance minister. By age I am the oldest one," he said. " I would say I was deeply impressed by this region and by this city and by the great hospitality we enjoyed. Of course it has changed my view of this part of the world. I'll be very frank about that - and I will not forget it."

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